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Bonds as a financial asset are not always the most intuitive things to understand for a non-finance person. Social impact finance is also a sector, which, while well-intentioned with often clear objectives, can still feel vague compared with traditional financial metrics.
So the concept of social impact bonds, which have been around for nearly a decade now, wasn’t necessarily appealing at first glance.
But there is good reason to take note once you have a closer look.
A social impact bond is a financial contract with the public sector or government where the terms of repayment are based on improved social outcomes. Unlike a traditional bond, there are no interest or principal repayments if the targeted outcomes are not achieved.
You could see the attraction for a certain kind of private investor or foundation that sets itself ESG (environmental, social and governance) targets. There are as many as 132 social impact bond projects around the world valued at around $431 million, impacting over a million people, according to the Social Impact Bond database.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, some of the projects are in the developing world but with just a few dotted across Uganda/Kenya, DR Congo/Mali/Nigeria and South Africa.
This idea of accountability and estimating impact objectively is attractive on paper though much more difficult to put into practice especially in countries with fewer available data sources and reliable internal systems.
But there are some interesting projects such as the Inclusive Youth Employment Pay for Performance Platform, described as the first social impact bond in South Africa. It is backed by a mix of domestic government and private third party funds.
The $2.4 million project, which was managed by Harambee Academy, launched in April 2018 and focused on unemployed young people ages 15-34 who hadn’t finished high school and were not currently in any training. This is a large demo accounting for around 40% of South Africa’s huge jobless ranks.
Noting many young South Africans were either not qualified for the jobs available or unable to pay for the education to get such jobs in a reasonable time frame, the bond’s funds were used to tackle the challenge by seeking alternative trainings. Ultimately they were used to try and secure sustainable jobs with 12 to 24-month contracts.
Inclusive Youth met its target outcomes early last December by placing 600 young people into jobs. The second phase launched this month to reinvest and expand the bond scheme over three years and place 5,400 jobs.
Social impact bonds are risky as it is difficult for an investor to predict social outcomes with the same familiar economic inputs. The upside of the risk is when outcomes are met there’s a decent positive return plus principal for those not already committed to reinvestment. And more importantly, you’d have made an impact.
— Yinka Adegoke, Quartz Africa editor
STORIES FROM THIS WEEK
Plans to open up Africa’s last major telecom market prompt questions on digital rights. There has been much excitement in African telecoms investor circles about the potential of the privatization of Ethio Telecom, Ethiopia’s monopoly which serves a market of 100 million people. But as major international telcos vie for two licenses questions are being raised about the digital rights of ordinary Ethiopians in the new order.
An African-American travel company reclaims “Go Back to Africa” with an AI-driven tourism campaign. Telling someone to “Go back to Africa” has long been used as an attempt to delegitimize African Americans in the United States. But as Haleluya Hadero reports a travel company is reclaiming the quip by using AI to encourage fellow African-Americans online to visit the continent.
Ghana is now the fastest-growing mobile money market in Africa. Ghana recently became the fastest-growing mobile money market in Africa, with registered accounts jumping six-fold between 2012 and 2017. Its success is the product of the right mix of consumer-driven practices and a favorable regulatory environment for the industry.
Startups trying to fix Nigeria’s broken healthcare system are winning global investor interest. With a few exceptions, Nigeria’s startup space has been dominated by the success of its fintech players. But given the many opportunities across the value chain of Nigeria’s inefficient health sector, Yomi Kazeem finds startups innovating in the sector are increasingly being validated with global venture capital backing.
African priests are now the future of the Catholic Church in the United States. As Catholicism is growing faster in Africa than in any region, there’s a corresponding effect outside the continent. As Lekan Oguntoyinbo explains, African-born priests are increasingly becoming an important part of the fabric of the Catholic church in America. But not every welcomes them.
Sudan’s street protests have inspired another revolution—in art. What began as spontaneous protests last December due to sluggish economic growth turned into a massive peaceful uprising but also led to repression by the military which has in turn unleashed some stunning street art. Abdi Latif Dahir spoke with an artist who’s been keeping track of the inspired murals with these photographs.
CHART OF THE WEEK
Africa’s fastest internet speed is in one of its poorest countries—while the slowest is in one of its richest. Across Africa, only Madagascar, one of the poorer countries on the continent, boasts speeds faster than 10 megabits per second, the prescribed minimum threshold for users to actively participate in the global digital economy. Meanwhile some of the slowest speeds are in a few of the wealthiest countries.
OTHER THINGS WE LIKED
Investors need to go beyond GDP in Africa. In the typical up and down roller coaster of investor interest in Africa, we’re back on the low end. For Project Syndicate, Paulo Gomes, a former senior World Bank official, explains why using national GDP as the primary gauge for investment assessment in African countries is a flawed path to take.
The slow integration of Somali immigrants in a Minnesotan city. In the New York Review of Books, Aida Alami writes on how a growing Somali-American community is fighting stereotypes and Islamophobia to try and work closer with their neighbors in the predominantly white city of St. Cloud, Minnesota.
Descendants of Igbo slaves continue to face discrimination in Nigeria. In The New Yorker, Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani tackles one of the most sensitive issues in southeastern Nigeria looking into the cultural beliefs on lineage and spirituality which hinder Igbo slave descendants from full social inclusion across southeastern Nigeria.
The Zombie economics driving the development of Africa’s new megacities. From Senegal and Nigeria to Egypt, several governments across Africa are investing in new mega-cities built from scratch at billion-dollar costs. But as Dafe Oputu argues in The Republic, while the outlandish city plans are couched as efforts at solving urban congestion, they largely ignore the socioeconomic realities of local residents and are driven by flawed economic logic.
Innovation in African Agriculture. Young African entrepreneurs with agriculture business ventures can enter GoGettaz’s agripreneur competition for mentorship, guidance, and a chance to win $50,000 towards their innovative agri-food businesses.(Jul. 21)
Developing African Entrepreneurs in the Sahel. Young entrepreneurs from northern Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon, Mauritania, Mali and Burkina Faso can apply to the TEF-UNDP Youth Entrepreneurship program for 12 weeks of training, mentoring, and non-refundable seed capital towards their businesses. (Aug. 5)
The making of an African changemaker. Non-profit leaders, organizational builders and entrepreneurs from East and West Africa are encouraged to apply to the Acumen Fellowship Program to build leadership skills, work across lines of difference, and mobilize local communities.(Aug. 11)
KEEP AN EYE ON
GSMA Mobile 360-Africa (July 16-18). Tech CEOs, senior executives, and other stakeholders across the African digital ecosystem will gather in Kigali to address trends and issues in mobile.
African Women in Technology 2019 (July 16-20). African women in small and medium-sized tech businesses will convene in Nairobi for AWT’s annual conference themed “Awaken The Techazon Within.”
Gambia National Internet Governance Forum (July 18-19). Stakeholders will gather in Kololi to discuss digital rights, data protection, and the national internet ecosystem in the Gambia.
Our best wishes for a productive and ideas-filled week ahead. Please send any news, comments, suggestions, Ethio Telecom shares and African social impact bonds to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow us on Twitter at @qzafrica for updates throughout the day.